Dragnet (1987)

Today's selection:

Not the greatest piece of cinematic entertainment ever made. I watched it all the time on VHS, even though I remember distinctly making the same disclaimer whenever I showed it to anyone who hadn't seen it. Normally this is the point where I'd write "but for Scenic Route purposes..." except it's not even all that scenic. Neither the cars nor the landscape of '87 Los Angeles is captured particularly beautifully or thoughtfully. So perhaps this should be called:

Nevertheless, I didn't harvest all these screencaps for nothing here we are, so let's make the most of it. Besides I wanted to check back in with L.A. to see if it got over its comet vampire problem.

Seems to have bounced back pretty well.
The haze has lifted, and the people have returned.

"This is the city. Los Angeles, California, representing every race, color, creed and persuasion that God, no matter how He is worshiped, chose in His infinite wisdom to deposit here in the cultural nexus of the Pacific Rim. Almost 4 million people work and play here, and like any other place anywhere, there are those who have it and those who want it.

"Those who have it, enjoy it - no matter how they got it. 

"Those who want it, can get it by attempting to better themselves in a sympathetic community populated by decent citizens cheering them on. Or, they can try to take it the easy way... Because even in the City of Angels, from time to time, some halos slip. That's where I come in, doing my job to the best of my ability on a daily basis.

"I work here. I carry a badge."

Cue the Art of Noise theme song remix - one of the first of its kind in a now ubiquitous genre. Speaking of songs from the soundtrack, remember this?

I'd actually forgotten all about that. Wow. I like how the accompanying text makes a big deal out of noting the choreography was by Paula Abdul. 

I wonder if they mean just the fly-girl stuff or all the little routines Hanks and Aykroyd do.

Dragnet takes place in the same universe as its TV source material and features Harry Morgan reprising his role as (now Captain) Bill Gannon. Dan Aykroyd does a perfect Joe Friday impersonation as Friday's similarly-named-and-similarly-just-the-facts-ma'am-persona'd nephew, and Tom Hanks is Streebek, his cra-hay-zy partner. 

Can these two mismatched cops overcome their differences in personality and police procedure and a corrupt police commissioner hellbent on stopping them in time to stop P.A.G.A.N. from dosing the city with chemical weapons?

People Against Goodness And Normalcy.

Like I said, it's not all that great - I mean, it's not bad, but some of the jokes are too broad and the whole uptight-guy-learns-to-loosen-up arc was old even in 1987. Nevertheless, I watched it over and over. You'd be forgiven for thinking it's because part of the plot involves a stolen print run of Bait Magazine, necessitating much of the action taking place at the porn publisher's mansion. 

Understandable but inaccurate. At the time - for reasons that escape me now - I thought 80s Playmates were lame. If it was '87; I only had eyes for Jami Gertz.
And while great pains are taken by Dabney Coleman and the production team to make sure his character (Jerry Caesar) isn't too alike any one real-life counterpart, the appearance of so many real-life Playboy Playmates certainly evokes both the fabled Mansion and Hugh Hefner.

Some uber-80s elements include:

Public pay phones.
Lots of public smoking. (In L.A.!)
And torture of a witness in LAPD custody played for laughs.

Incidentally, that joke is ruined by that overhead shot of the table. Whenever Muzz (the prisoner) refuses to talk, Streebek sends Friday out of the room, whereupon he opens a drawer and slams it shut into Muzz's balls. But just prior to the shot on the left, Streebeck reaches down to his side of the table to pull out the drawer. I mean, maybe the LAPD have a specially constructed table where the drawer does a hard right turn underneath the tabletop, but it looks like they just screwed up.

"The story you are about to see is true; the names have been changed to protect the innocent. For example: George Baker is now called 'Sylvia Weiss.'"  

"Look out: Muppets!"
Streebek's apartment is pretty cool. Hiroshige is following me around lately.
Something tells me there won't be a BAMF entry for this film.
Ye Angelinos - is this a real place? Or backlot?


Neither Aykroyd or Hanks had many more action/cop roles.
Kudos for Hanks doing his own stunts, though. (If riding pillion without a helmet can be considered a stunt.)
Non as Emil Muzz.
Lt. Stephanie Holden as The Virgin Connie Swaile,  Chang as Reverand Whirley, and
Roxy Carmichael as Baitmate Suprema.


The Scenic Route celebrates the fashions, landscapes, cars, and vibes of a bygone age via the cinematic record.


  1. (1) "He'th got ballth ath big ath churth bellth!"

    (2) Look, man ... I'm with you on this. I loved this movie back in the day. I'd be scared to revisit it, lest it disappoint me. But with Aykroyd, Hanks, and Coleman, how could it?!?

    (3) I think the people who know Hanks as David S. Punpkins would get a kick out of that video. And why not? I sure did. I bet Rita carries that on her phone at all times, as a threat.

    (4) It seems as if whatever its artistic merits (or lack thereof), this one makes for a solid '80s time capsule. There's a place for that sort of thing, you know. I think we'd all be the porrer if they didn't exist, as would future generations.

    (5) I like to imagine James Michener being forced to take a nephew to see this movie, and being utterly bored by it until that wall painting shows up, at which he straightens up and begins futilely paying attention.

    (6) I don't think I ever knew that was Non! Wow! I swear to God, I think I subconsciously thought that guy was just an escaped Kryptonian criminal; the thought of him being in other movies may literally never have occurred to me.

    (7) Nice job on the screencaps! I wouldn't have let 'em go to waste, either.

    1. (1) Did Dabney Coleman get sick or something? He was in everything for awhile and then disappeared and then what, Boardwalk Empire? I'll have to look him up. Maybe he just got sick of being in literally everything ever filmed.

      (2) It's one of those films I'll always say "Oh yeah, not a good flick" and then watch, at some point, again. If for nothing else like you sat it's an 80s time capsule in a lot of ways, and it's fun to see Hanks in these early roles when he wasn't "Tom Hanks, Hollywood's Walter Cronkite." (Full disclosure - I love Tom Hanks. I just mean the stellar rep he's earned since the 80s is sometimes fun to cross/compare to "Dragnet" or "Bachelor Party" or what not.)

      (3) No word of a lie, he should do some kind of tour. Maybe with his rapping kid as an opening act or something. I can see this ending in disaster, but man, "David S. Pumpkins Interprets the Classics" with "City of Crime" as an encore sounds like a fun time.

      (5) I got a good chuckle out of this. I also like the idea of "James Michener reviews the 80s films of Dan Aykroyd." If I were more ambitious, I'd get that up and running myself.

      (7) Glad to hear you enjoyed. My goal is to get Scenic Routes for LA, Chicago, New York, London, and maybe Paris if I can swing it, and elsewhere too if possible, from the 60s through the 80s and maybe end with some 90s wrap-ups. But, we'll see. I've yet to actually plan/pick a "Scenic Route," it just sort of happens. Altho I think the next one will be "American Werewolf in London."

    2. 1. "Kids, it'll grow back. Ya-aaaaay!

      2. I can remember watching this way back when and being less than impressed. Something tells me I'd have a more tolerant response if I had a chance to catch up to it today.

      3. I cannot believe that music vid exists. I do know of the time Aykroyd got to hang with a Beatle!:


      4. Pretty soon most films are going to be time capsules. There may come a day when even the bad films have to be preserved for the historical detail they can offer (though that's a mixed blessing with certain Drive-In fare).

      5. For some strange reason, the idea of Michener, or even some other Noble Laureate being forced to take notice of a comedy of this nature has a certain poetic irony to it.

      7. Friday, I think I found the snake! One of those lines that lodges in your head and you can't remember why or where it came from.


    3. 1. That joke lands pretty well. They should have made it the bar to clear and nor lines like "Sounds like your aftershave, Friday" or "Are you on any medication I should be aware of?" etc.

      4. Amen! That's what I'm here for.

      7. That one, too!